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Myths describe events and different life situations in a timeless past. Most of them reflect universal problems of evil, goodness, love, morality or heroic actions. The uniqueness is that myths involve supernatural abilities of people or unreal events. In contrast to myths, legends are based on real historical events retold with some changes or exaggerations. Myths reflect tradition about gods and heroes and men, but always retold on new lines and given a new meaning. Myth is not merely stories of the past. It lives on with every new age, at least as long as the link with the past is strong enough and, as it is, self-evident. Legends, in their turn, belong more to the 'literary' or the 'historical' school of interpretation. From the assumption that myth represents early history the demand has been raised for 'historical truth'. Every deviation from a 'true' picture of mythical times, whatever that may be based on, is regarded as an 'anachronism' (Hamilton, 1999). This view takes the mythical world as a time-bound period of history and forgets its timelessness. If myth could grow around historical events of the immediate past, it was bound to express the historical world of the poet's own time. The very nature of myth as the material of tragedy suggests that 'tragedy as history', if rightly understood, is indeed an essential and inescapable feature of the tradition. In contrast, legends are stories about real historical figures, ordinary people or kings involved in unusual life situations. It is only a difference in poetical creativeness and value; it is above all, a change due to a different position of the poet within his social and spiritual surroundings, and a different attitude of public opinion to the gods and in particular to mythological stories.
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One of my favorite myths is the Pandora ’s Box. This myth symbolically and metaphorically tells that external beauty and goodness can hide many unpleasant and terrible things, so it is better to investigate the matter and analyze a situation before accepting an important decision in your life. If historical interpretation has frequently fallen short of a true understanding of dramatic art and poetry, this cannot justify an interpretation by literary standards only, which then by necessity means that the myth is seen more or less in a timeless manner.
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